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  • Rikki Lambert

Not much chop at Victorian country shows as native timber supply logs off

The rhythmic thump of burly wood choppers laying into a log at local country shows could go the way of the dodo, the state opposition warns amid a timber shortage.

Shadow minister for Agriculture, Emma Kealy, warned that a pending court appeal against native forest logging could come too late to save the Australian traditional events:

"Some of (the country shows) have had them for 100 years and it's something that all the kids love to go and see and the adults too. It's under threat this year - and we're already seeing some wood chop events be cancelled - simply because Vic Forests don't have any capacity to harvest our native timber and therefore we can't supply timber to these events. 
"It's very concerning and probably just what we're seeing from the Andrews Labor government of putting lots of restrictions in place in terms of native timber harvesting to appease inner city voters, but as a result, we're starting to lose the culture that we really embrace strongly in regional Victoria."

Hear the full interview with shadow agriculture minister Emma Kealy on the Flow podcast player below:

In January, Australia ceased producing its own white paper, driving up costs for the stationery staple, on the back of a long-running VicForests court battle.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews hit back at suggestions his government is partly to blame for the early closure of Australia's last white paper mill as unions shape up for a fight over the axing of Australia's last white paper manufacturing plant.

The Victorian government has deflected blame for its early closure to the courts as Opal Australian Paper officially stopped manufacturing white pulp and paper at its Maryvale mill in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, producing its last ream on January 21.

The Victorian Nationals' federal MP for Gippsland, Darren Chester, took to social media to sheet the blame directly at the premier's feet:

The move means up to 200 job losses for the region and comes after the end of a Victorian government guarantee to pay stood-down production workers.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union lambasted the early end of white paper production in Australia as "disastrous" and blamed a lack of appropriate action by Opal and the Victorian government.

Opal pointed to its inability to source wood from state-owned supplier VicForests as the reason behind its decision to call time on white paper manufacturing.

White paper production at the mill was impacted late last year after VicForests was ordered to scale back harvesting after the Victorian Supreme Court found it failed to adequately survey logging coupes for two protected possum species.

VicForests are appealing the decision.

On Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews hit back at suggestions the government was partly to blame for the mill's closure, saying court judgements had "essentially put an end to native timber harvesting".

"The biggest thing that's caused the very unfortunate circumstances that those workers and their families face is not government policy but decisions of the courts and coupes that were set to be logged cannot be."

Meanwhile, on Monday Premier Andrews earns the right to have a statue in his honour put outside the state government centre in Melbourne as he serves his 3,000th day in office.


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